New study shows School Streets improve air quality

A study of 18 School Streets schemes in London has found their introduction has led to a 23% reduction in nitrogen dioxide levels – with a new survey also indicating ‘strong’ support from parents.

Since April 2020, almost 350 School Streets have been delivered across the Capital with funding from Transport for London and the boroughs, in an effort to “tackle children’s exposure to air pollution and improve their health”.

To measure the air quality benefits of the new School Streets, 30 “cutting-edge” sensors were installed at 18 primary schools across Brent, Enfield and Lambeth to record nitrogen dioxide levels. 

The air quality monitoring project, funded by FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, was launched in September 2020 to “give the most accurate indication yet” of how School Streets schemes are working.

It found that closing the roads around schools to traffic at pick-up and drop-off times has reduced “polluting” nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23%.

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said: “School Streets play an important role in enabling parents and children to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school which has so many benefits, not least in improving air quality. 

“It’s great to see the huge reduction in nitrogen dioxide during pick up and drop off on schools streets – a time where countless children and adults would otherwise be exposed to dangerous emissions. 

“Too many lives are already lost each year as a result of our city’s toxic air and the results of our monitoring study show just how much of a difference reducing car journeys through School Streets makes.”

School Streets “hugely popular” with parents
Meanwhile, the mayor and TfL have also published the findings of a survey which suggests interventions to make walking and cycling safer for schoolchildren are popular with parents and carers and have contributed to a drop in car use. 

The results showed 81% of those surveyed at schools where measures had been implemented believed a School Street is suitable for their school – while 18% reported driving to school less as a result of School Streets.

Alex Williams, TfL’s director of city planning, said: “Enabling everybody across London to walk and cycle more is a vital part of making our Capital safer, healthier and more sustainable place, and enabling parents and children to build active travel into their daily routines from a young age is particularly crucial. 

“At a time that has led to some of the biggest ever changes to Londoners’ travel habits, this new research shows that School Street schemes are hugely popular with parents and have had a positive effect on their travel habits and perception of safety near their school. 

“We’ll continue to work closely with schools, local communities and boroughs across London as we deliver further schemes across the capital to reflect the changing Covid-19 situation.”

12 March 2021